Immigrant activists pledged Thursday to unleash an election year counteroffensive against President Donald Trump as he pushes to end their protection from deportation that the Supreme Court left in place last week.
United We Dream Action, the political arm of the largest organization for young immigrants without permanent legal status — known as Dreamers — is “powering up” its leaders and volunteers to reach 6 million youth and low-propensity Latino voters for the November election, said Cristina Jiménez, executive director and co-founder of the group.
“We know that in order to defend immigrants, protect DACA and defend our democracy that Trump must be defeated this November,” Jiménez said in a press call.
DACA refers to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young immigrants who have been in the U.S. since they were children and lack legal status to work and study without the threat of deportation.
The Supreme Court last week, in a 5-4 vote, rejected Trump’s attempt to end DACA protections and work permits for more than 650,000 people. While the ruling was celebrated by DACA recipients, the court left room for Trump to take another stab at ending the program, and Trump has seized on that opening.
United We Dream said it is joining several other groups to mobilize voters against Trump and other Republicans.
The group is partnering with several organizations including the Service Employees International Union, one of the nation's largest labor unions; Sunrise Movement, an activist group focused on climate change and young people; the Arizona-based grassroots organization LUCHA; the Center for Popular Democracy and the Youth Alliance.
Jiménez, who will vote in his first presidential election in November, said United We Dream will focus on turning out the 2.5 million U.S. citizen voters who are relatives of DACA recipients.
Although DACA recipients can't vote, they have a strong record of pressing others in their networks who can vote to get to the polls. In the 2014 midterms, their anger over President Barack Obama's deportation record was seen as influential in keeping some Latino voters home.
An estimated 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote this year, but generally about less than half have registered to vote. The nation saw a jump in Latino registration and voting in 2018, and before George Floyd's death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, about 14 million were expected to vote this year.
While Floyd's death and subsequent protests could act as motivators, the coronavirus pandemic could also hamper voting in some states such as Texas, which has a large Latino population.
Jiménez said she cast her first ballot in a congressional race on Tuesday for the progressive Jamaal Bowman, who led Thursday over Rep. Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary in New York’s 16th Congressional District, with many ballots still being counted.
“I cast that ballot not only for myself, but keeping my undocumented parents in mind [and] my brother Jonathan, who is a DACA recipient," said Jimenez. “My vote was cast for all working-class families that need to be protected and thrive in this country.”View this graphic on nbcnews.com
Jiménez and the other leaders who spoke to reporters said they see a spillover of the protests and momentum on the Black Lives Matter movement to their communities and activism.
Ricardo Zamudio Guillén, organizing director for LUCHA, said Latino, Black and Indigenous people had already joined together in Arizona to fight SB1070, the “show me your papers” law that gave law enforcement more power to stop people and ask whether they are citizens or in the country legally.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, there is a realization of how systemic racism is playing out in different communities, Zamudio Guillén said.
He said there is a growing awareness in the immigrant and Latino communities that calls to defund police also can apply to law enforcement resources used for separating children from parents, detaining and deporting them.
“We know that many of the policies that impact our communities are rooted in white supremacy and systemic racism,” Jimenez said.